For people worldwide, service dogs are more than just man’s best friend. A service dog can provide invaluable services to those with physical limitations and mental health disorders. These highly-trained companions can assist individuals in daily tasks that would be otherwise overwhelming and provide them with the comfort and care necessary to survive in what would otherwise be unmanageable situations.

Are Dogs the Only Type of Service Animal?

The American Disabilities Act (ADA), which governs the use of service animals, limits the classification to miniature horses and dogs. Dogs remain the most common service animal, thanks to their gentle demeanors and helpful nature. As a result, service dogs have certain legal rights, allowing them to accompany their human companions into most public spaces. While other animals may provide therapy and emotional support, only dogs and miniature horses are considered service animals in the eyes of the law. However, there is no limitation on what breed is permitted to become a service dog.

The ADA recognizes all domesticated dog breeds as service dogs as long as they undergo mandatory training. Although no officially recognized breeds exist, several are considered the best service dog breeds based on temperament and other characteristics. Although some local laws might ban particular dog breeds, service dogs are exempt according to federal law. Learn more about service dog laws here.

List of Top 8 Breeds for Service Dog

When determining the best service dog breed, it is essential to recognize that individuals with specific physical limitations or mental illnesses will require a service dog with specific characteristics. In other worse, not every dog breed is suitable for every service dog task.  

For example, the best mobility service dog breeds will have very different traits and characteristics than the best breeds for psychiatric service dogs.

 With that in mind, here are some of the most common service dog breeds.

1. The Golden or Labrador Retriever

Labrador and golden retrievers are fantastic service dogs, which is why they are one of the most common. Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers are among the best mobility service dog breeds and best breeds for psychiatric service dogs. Retrievers are loving and friendly, responding well to training for physical and emotional support. Labradors and golden retrievers form strong bonds with handlers and love responsibilities like retrieving items and leading their handlers.

2. The German Shepherd

German shepherds are large, strong dogs commonly associated with law enforcement services. The qualities that make the German shepherd a great police dog, such as their trainability, intelligence, and loyalty, are the same ones that make them one of the best service dog breeds. German shepherds are one of the best mobility service dog breeds, suited to serve as a seeing-eye dog or for balance assistance. They are also well suited for diabetic aid because they can easily monitor a handler’s blood sugar levels thanks to their keen sense of smell.

3. The Standard Poodle

Standard poodles are intelligent and well-suited for physical tasks, making them one of the best mobility service dog breeds. A poodle is easily trained and a pleasure to work with, thanks to their passive and friendly demeanor. One of the unique benefits of a poodle is its hypoallergenic fur, which makes it a great breed for those who suffer from allergies.

4. The Pomeranian

While they may not be up to the challenge of physical service, Pomeranians are attentive to their human companion’s needs, making them one of the best breeds for psychiatric service dogs. Smart, teachable, and small in size, Pomeranians are great for helping with psychiatric assistance and for providing emotional support wherever you go.

5. The Boxer

Boxers are one of the best service dog breeds for various disabilities. Gentle, good-natured, and friendly, a Boxer can easily learn to navigate through crowds, which can come in handy for those with physical and mental conditions. They are one of the best service dog breeds for PTSD and anxiety and an excellent choice for those who live in active households or households with kids. Remember that Boxers do need lots of exercise.

6. The Border Collie

Border Collies are a breed of dog that has worked alongside humans for centuries. Border Collies are among the smartest breeds, making them the perfect choice for individuals who require help with complex tasks. Before choosing a Border Collie as a service dog, ensure that you are prepared for the breed’s physical and mental needs. A Border Collie requires significant daily exercise and mental stimulation to remain happy and healthy.

7. The Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese mountain dogs are large breeds that do well in service work. A Bernese mountain dog can learn complex tasks and bond well with human companions. Strong, friendly, and eager to please, the Bernese mountain dog is not only one of the best mobility service dog breeds but also one of the best breeds for psychiatric service dogs.

8. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is not usually the best breed for mobility service, but it is, hands down, one of the best service dog breeds for PTSD and anxiety. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is attentive to its human companion’s emotional needs and is often trained to help with OCD and depression, as well as PTSD and anxiety. As a lap dog, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel provides comfort and support without being overly demanding or having the high energy associated with larger breeds.

Final Thoughts on the Best Service Dog Breeds

Service dogs perform a vital service to humans. While no dog breed is better or worse at being a service dog, different breeds have different skillsets and traits, so it is important to understand the basics of having a service dog before choosing one that is right for you.